THROUGH THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF HELL (2013)
for new music ensemble vs. chamber orchestra
Commissioned for the Hartford New Music Festival 1913/2013
Hartford Chamber Orchestra and The Generous Ensemble
17 & 20 October 2013
Daniel D'Addio, conductor
Through the Bright Lights of Hell (2013) is an anxious and suspicious “crossing over” into an unknowable landscape. It’s an odyssey into the fabled bright lights recounted by those who have stood at the threshold of death. I’ve written “heavenly” passages, “hellish” passages, and “traveling” passages, but suspect that distinguishing one from another might be a very subjective exercise for the audience: Are the tonal parts Heaven or Hell or something else? Does it matter? Enjoy the ride! An early stab at titling the piece had “_____________” (a blank to be filled in), before the word “Through,” suggesting that each listener might supply his or her own verbs, such as: Running, Escaping, Dancing, Blasting, Skipping, Stumbling, Breaking, Sleeping, Tripping, Coughing, Crashing, Laughing, Crying, Bleeding, Screaming … Through the Bright Lights of Hell.
Through the Bright Lights of Hell was commissioned for the combined forces of the Generous New Music Ensemble and the (vs. the) Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s landmark The Rite of Spring. Although the volatile, confrontational and episodic nature of Through the Bright Lights of Hell is influenced and inspired by that iconic Stravinsky work, there are no direct references to The Rite or, for that matter, to any other of the groundbreaking works of the time (from Debussy or Ives or anyone else). There is, however, a brief passing nod to a different kind of 1913 classic, the popular American torch song The Curse of an Aching Heart (which is heard in multiple simultaneous keys near the end of this piece), but the ‘aching heart’ 'seeds' are planted across the entire 28:00 work. Throughout “Bright Lights of Hell” there are also embedded extremely brief, fractured glances at pieces from 1813, 1713, and 1613.
In this time of academic fascination with compositional mathematics, allow me to say, Through the Bright Lights of Hell is 28 minutes in duration, and its structure involves (approximately) four major seven-minute connecting sections. (4 x 7 = 28.) Still juggling numbers, the numbers 13 and 7 to be exact: Samuel Beckett was seven years old in 1913. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 dates from 1813. J. S. Bach wrote much of his landmark “The Well-Tempered Clavier” in 1713. And the great Italian composer-performer Giuseppe Tartini dreamed that the devil appeared to him in 1713 and played his violin (or so goes the tale of Tartini’s Violin Sonata in G minor, a.k.a. the Devil’s Trill Sonata). If this sounds like doubletalk, keep in mind that Richard Nixon was born in 1913.
Most of the work on this piece was abstractly inspired by Samuel Beckett, and dedicated to one of his biggest fans, composer Scott Comanzo, director of the 1913/2013 Hartford New Music Festival.
Although occasionally improvisatory in sound, the entire score is specifically, exactly - and painstakingly - thoroughly notated from start to finish.
Michael Schelle's website: http://schellemusic.com/1.html